Netanyahu out of picture, Kerry and Zarif meet for new nuke talks

Ignoring Israeli prime minister’s plea to abandon emerging agreement, US and Iranian envoys powwow for third day

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left,  with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on March 2, 2015, in Montreux. (photo credit: AFP/POOL/EVAN VUCCI)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on March 2, 2015, in Montreux. (photo credit: AFP/POOL/EVAN VUCCI)

MONTREUX, Switzerland — US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Wednesday resumed talks on a nuclear deal, ignoring an impassioned plea from the Israeli prime minister to ditch the process.

After meeting throughout the day on Tuesday, Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were back at the negotiating table for a third consecutive day in the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux.

Kerry did not watch the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US Congress, as in a twist of fate he was thousands of miles away in the middle of negotiations for the very deal which the Israeli leader denounced as a grave danger to his country.

Despite the political drama, US officials have shrugged off Netanyahu’s Tuesday address.

“I am not focused in the politics of this. I am not focused on the theater,” US President Barack Obama said. “As far as I can tell, there was nothing new.

“On the core issue, which is how to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon which would make it far more dangerous, the prime minister did not offer any viable alternatives.”

Kerry was due to fly later Wednesday to Riyadh where he will meet with Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers as well as new Saudi King Salman.

Saudi Arabia has been wary about the growing rapprochement between its ally the US and its regional foe, Shiite Muslim Iran.

But US officials said that even if there is a deal with Iran, that does not mean they will turn a blind eye to the other activities of the country, still branded by Washington as the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

“If we have an agreement on the nuclear file, our view is that that is something that will contribute directly to regional stability, as well as global security and stability,” a senior State Department official told reporters.

But he warned “regardless of what happens with the nuclear file, we will continue to confront aggressively Iranian expansion in the region, Iranian aggressiveness in the region.”

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